Sentimentality – #ThrowbackThursday

~ Looking back at the essays you wrote during you Master’s degree is probably something you should never do…right?  Especially not when you have an exciting, fast-paced career and concrete, attainable plans for the future.  Didn’t Peter say something about sentimentality in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway?  Didn’t he say that it was dangerous, and something to be avoided at all costs…or am I misreading Woolf again (as I’m prone to do)?

~ Ah yes, Mrs. Dalloway, a novel I read for the first time in my first ever university English class…and then revisited in my first ever Master’s level English class.  And there we have it, a train of thought that leads me back to my days as a student, back to the hours and hours I spent reading novels, researching concepts, developing thesis statements, writing essays, and (my personal favourite) delivering seminars and presentations.  This is the exact sort of train of thought that’s dangerous and that gets me into trouble – it makes me question everything, all the things I have and all the things I’ve decided that I hope for.  It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I was meant to do a Ph.D. after all……

Okay, so you’re all probably wondering, Where did Nostalgic JNG come from?  Well, one of my university friends has recently asked me to help her with her application to the MA English program at the University of Toronto…the very same one I completed only a few years ago.  I’ve been offering her advice and editing parts of her application…and enjoying every minute of it.  Something about this whole process has reminded me of who I was (or still am…?!), of the girl who was so darn passionate about literature that she constantly had ideas for papers floating in her head, so quickly that she had to carry a pen and paper around at all times to make sure the details didn’t fly away.

Where did that girl go?  I think she’s still in here, because every time I discuss the MA program with my friend, this academic girl inside me gets antsy and annoyed and starts banging against the walls of my green heart as if she wants to be let out.  But, I’m not trying to discourage her…I never was.  She was tired, after five long years of university, and she needed a break.  I’m just not sure if she still does.

My priorities have changed, there’s no doubt about that!  There’s so much I want to do in my life now, and a lot of it would be seriously delayed, and possibly even prevented, if I decided to do my Ph.D.  And then there’s the question, To what end?  I study toward my Ph.D. and then what?  Do I become a professor right away?  Do I move my family (if I’ve even had time to make one) halfway across the country, or even halfway across the world, just in the hopes of finding a tenured position?  It all seems so risky, especially when I am comfortable and settled, and when I see an actual career lined up before me that will be totally exhilarating and spectacular.

I’m happy every single day, I should be clear about that.  I’m excited to go into work (despite the long and dreary commute, which I can definitely work on changing one day) and I feel like my talents and skills are really growing and shining through as I take on new tasks and challenges.  But, I haven’t written an essay in years (Or have I?  What do you all think, do these posts count as mini-essays?), and my academic side hasn’t been exercised.

So, what to do?  Avoid nostalgia, or embrace it, let it in and allow it to inform my future decisions?  Whatever Mrs. Dalloway’s friend Peter would say, I think I have no choice but to feel the sentimentality, to miss my past, and somehow try to incorporate it into my future.  The challenge now presents itself… How to be the academic and the free woman I am now?

Any suggestions, dear friends?

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

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